My Pet Writing Peev?
It’s the group of questions those who go out to work always seem obsessed by:
“What sort of routine do you have?” “When do you write?” “Do you get to the desk at 9 like the rest of us?”
The short answers are “None.” “Um!” and “No.”
The actuality is, as we all know, far more complicated. It’s impossible to make people understand that while you know writing is 95% perspiration and 5% inspiration, sometimes compromise is necessary.
The neurosurgeon cannot say she’ll tackle that difficult case on Monday, if the patient will have died in the meantime. Certainly if we leave a character too long then they might have gone off to character limbo and be reluctant to resume residence in our WIP, but they won’t be dead to our imaginations. The shade of their ephemeral being will still linger in our brains and when we ask the questions we asked before, that character will rise from literary limbo and stride across the pages – or limp, dance, skip, if that's more their sort of thing.
More than ever, the writer has to set aside their WIP in order to do publicity and promotion or to do writing related work that earns regular cash. So few of us will be sitting down at 9am with the characters and ambling through chapter whatever.
Consequently, a lot of writing may not take place in surroundings that resemble an office. Snatched moments sitting beside the pool – while the children have a swimming lesson; an oasis of fifteen when your friend hasn’t arrived at the coffee shop or sitting on the bus to work where you can screen out the rest of the passengers and sort out the plot glitch that’s been troubling you. None of that comes under routine, but it does create copy.
As a playwright, I have often had to write to the side of a rehearsal. The actor might say, “but I don’t understand,” and, Oh Woe! They’re right. You need to get the head down and sort it out. Believe me, you don’t want an actor making up what they think should go in there.
So give us a break, readers and play-goers, the creative imagination may not respond to routine and regular hours, but it never truly sleeps. Or if it does, the dreams are set down on waking.